Kiwi with its egg, New Zealand

New Zealand, Land of the Long White Cloud - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 6th August 2023

A Very Short History of New Zealand

New Zealand consists of two main islands and over 700 smaller ones. They have the distinction of being the last large habitable landmass to be settled by humans. These were Polynesians, between about 1280 and 1350. A distinctive Māori culture then developed, naming the country Aotearoa.

New Zealand was first discovered by Europeans in 1642, when Dutch sailor Abel Tasman arrived, hence the Dutch name. Several of his crew were killed by Maoris and he left in a hurry. In 1769 Captain James Cook arrived and mapped the land and the British eventually staked their claim to the land, in 1841 (see Waitangi). The British monarch is still officially Head of State, represented in New Zealand by a Governor General.

Facts and Factoids

  • The Land of the Long White Cloud is the most common translation of Aotearoa – the Maori name for New Zealand. The legend tells that, Kupe (the first Polynesian to discover New Zealand ) realised he was approaching land when he saw the cloud hovering over it. His wife, called out “He ao! He ao!” (A cloud! A cloud!), It's not the most exciting story. And some Maoris argue that the description applies only to North Island.
  • More recently New Zealand's acquired another nickname - Middle Earth, in deference to the Lord of the Rings films, which Wellingtonian Peter Jackson filmed in the country. They showcased the beautiful mountain scenery perfectly. They even put Hobbits on their money.
  • Don't confuse your Kiwis. The people of New Zealand are called Kiwis, named after New Zealand’s native flightless bird. Kiwifruit grow here in bagfuls, but they are also known as Chinese Gooseberries. Until the First World War, the kiwi represented the country and not the people who were previously known by other nicknames, such as "Enzedder'.
  • New Zealand is famous for its sheep and cattle herds. The numbers of sheep farmed in New Zealand are falling. There are presently, about 25 million sheep. So the sheep, to human ration dropped below five to one in 2022, for the first time since the 1850s, when national sheep numbers were first recorded (human population about 4 million.)
  • Two major topics of conversation (other than sheep) are the national obsessions: rugby and cricket. Rugby is the national sport and the All Blacks, men's rugby team is often cited as the most successful sports team in history.
  • New Zealand also holds some world records:
    • It was the first country to give women the vote - in 1893.
    • New Zealand has the town with the longest name in the world - Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. (The place where Tamatea, the man on the big knees who slipped, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as the land eater, he played the flute to his loved one.)
    • Wellington is the southern-most capital in the world.

What to See in New Zealand?

New Zealand is universally acclaimed as being gorgeous: Mountains, volcanoes, geysers, rolling hills, beaches, fjords. A third of the country is designated a protected national reserve.

I made two separate trips:

Join the discussion, leave a comment

Been there? Something to add? Want some advice? Just want to say Hello? Get in touch…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

hello world!

Newsletter Subscription

Stay in touch. Get travel tips, updates on my latest adventures and posts on out of the way places, straight to your Inbox.

I keep your data private and only share your data with third parties that make this service possible. Privacy Policy. No spam I promise. Unsubscribe any time.